Monday, December 14, 2015

Marked by War: Crailo and King George's War

One of Crailo’s most distinct features, and certainly its most “fort” like, are the gun ports on the outside of the house. The gun ports were installed during King George’s War, a particularly violent period of time in the areas history.

The exterior of one of the gunports
            King George’s War was the third of the four major colonial war fought between England and France during the late seventeenth and eighteenth century. King George’s War can trace its origins to The War of Jenkins Ear between England and Spain that broke out in 1739. This interestingly named war was caused by an incident in 1731 in which an English smuggler named Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by a Spanish naval officer while searching his ship for contraband. In 1738 Jenkins testified before Parliament about the incident supposedly showing the ear in question for dramatic effect. War was soon declared. This war was quickly subsumed by the War of Austrian Succession which began in 1740 shortly after the death of Emperor Charles VI of the Hapsburg Empire. Several European countries chose not to recognize his daughter Maria Theresa as the true heir to the throne.

            In 1744 the war spread to North America as King George’s War. Initially fighting was limited to Canada. There Massachusetts colonial troops took the large French settlement and fortress of Louisburg, Nova Scotia in 1745.

            By November of 1745 the war spread to New York. On November 28 a party of more than 500 French and their Indian allies attacked Philip Schuyler’s settlement at what is now Schuylerville. At least 30 people were killed and more than 100 taken prisoner.

            In the early months of 1746 these raids became more frequent, to the point where it was dangerous to be outside of the walls of Albany. In Mid May 1746 80 French and Indians attacked Greenbush. At the farm of Barent Van Iveren, which adjoined the Van Rensselaer land, Van Iveren, his brother Jacob, brother-in-law Martinus Van Alstyne and a slave belonging to John Van Rensselaer were killed. Another of the Van Rensselaer’s slaves was captured and likely killed.  At least two scalps taken during this raid were later displayed in Canada.

According to one account Jacob Van Iveren managed to shoot one of the Indian attackers and John Van Rensselaer’s slave beat two of the Indians so badly they died the next day. These were the only casualties the French and Indians suffered during the raid. The people of Albany could see the fighting but were unable to organize a crossing in enough time to aid the Van Iverens.

Interior view of one of the gunports
John Van Rensselaer who had inherited Crailo in 1740 decided he could not take any chances with his family. He paid a little over £31 to have eleven men from the local militia stationed at his house from May 20 through July 28. It is likely that the gun ports were put into the house at this point. The men also built a stockade around the house.

King George’s War lasted another two years and there were several more raids into the area although Crailo itself was never attacked, most likely because it was too well defended.  Large bodies of men were frequently stationed on the Crailo farm to defend against an attack on Albany. Other less defended targets were not so lucky. In August 1746 six men were killed, two wounded and another captured from Schodack. Also in August a large body of nearly 1,000 French and Abenaki attacked Fort Massachusetts near North Adams. In August 1747 the men of the Van Valkenburgh family of Schodack were captured ; Abraham, his son Jacob, son-in-law Andries Huyck and Abraham’s four year old grandson.

The war ended in 1748 with the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle, which made no significant changes to the borders of the North American colonies and did nothing to relieve tensions between the French, British and Native Americans. These would of course boil over a few years later in the French and Indian War. The treaty returned Louisburg to the French, a slight which the people of Massachusetts who had sacrificed to capture it, never forgot. The war did leave a lasting mark on Crailo though in the shape of the gun ports still visible today.

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